Muted Strums Tutorial

Muted strums are a useful tool to have in your repertoire. They can add percussion and syncopation to an otherwise boring strum.

You perform them by resting a finger or fingers from your fretting hand on the strings. You need to hold them down enough so the strings don’t ring open but not strong enough to hold them down. If you just rest them against the string without applying any pressure it should do the trick.

There are a few different ways you can perform them:

One/Two finger mute: Relax the chord you’re holding, lay pinkie or ringer finger or both across the strings. The advantage of this is that you keep your fretting fingers in the chord position. So it's useful for mid-strum mutes.

All-finger mute: Rest all your fingers across the strings. This produces a very solid mute but does mean your fingers are out of position for chords.

Chord release mute: If a chord has you fretting all the strings you can create a mute just by releasing pressure with your fingers just enough to stop the chord sounding. The advantage with this technique is you can very quickly switch between muted and open strums.

A Chnk Alternative

The most obvious way to use muted strums is as a substitute for chnks. They provide a similar percussive sound but are easier to pull off.

Here’s a typical chnk strum played with one finger muted strums. Slowly then up to speed.

d u x u d u x u

The main advantage they have over chnks is that they can be played on up-strums as well as down-strums.

d u x x d u x x

Nirvana Style Mutes

Another common place to use them is between chord changes. Most famously used in Smells Like Teen Spirit.

In this example I’m using all-finger muting.

d – d – x x x x

Niles Rogers Style Mutes

The speed you can apply the chord release muting makes it perfect for funk and disco chord vamps. The great part is that you can just strum down-up-down-up and switch between muted and unmuted strums to create the rhythm.

In this example I’m playing and muting a G9 chord 4555.

Picking Hand Muting

You can also mute the strings at the strumming end of the uke by resting the side of your hand on the strings just in front of the bridge. That dampens the string while still letting you fret the strings and produce a note. You can do this while strumming but it’s even more effective on single notes.

Here’s a little riff on the C-string just switching between the third and fifth fret. I play this with fingerpicking but this technique works well if you’re using a pick and is easier that way.

Further Reading

How to Play Ukulele Strums: my ebook on all things strum related.
Easy alternatives to chnking
Strum blocking

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2 Comments

  1. patrick July 21st, 2017 1:50 am

    dear mr. woodshed.Not related to your muting methods.I have very good pono baritone uke that I want to install tenor strings on tuned to standard gcea pitch.Are you aware of any companies that supply these strings and will not damage a baritone instrument? Thank you

  2. Woodshed July 21st, 2017 1:03 pm

    patrick: Aquila do some in gCEA tuning.

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